Just Beginning, a program supporting young men in their role as fathers, graduates first class in August
At the end of August, First3Years celebrated the graduation of six teen fathers from the Just Beginning program—the only teen parenting support program of its kind in Texas.
In reaching this milestone, First3Years expresses our deep gratitude to our partners at Lyle B. Medlock Treatment Facility and Youth Village, who have been supportive at every step—trusting the program objectives, being open to this innovative approach, and allowing First3Years to bring in young children for play sessions.
The graduation marked the end of a 5-module series composed of group trainings on parenting, individual play sessions between the fathers and their young children, and one-on-one mentoring with First3Years staff. But more than anything, it marked the promise of new beginnings, and symbolized the strong bonds that have been forming between the teens and their children.
Powerfully, one of the Probation Officers shared that he noticed a dramatic improvement in the teen fathers’ behavior even after just one class: “It was like a light switch.”
Supporting this observation, at graduation, we saw a young father with his two children, sitting together with his sons on his lap, talking with them. He gave them kisses. This is the same young man who in June had shared he wasn’t confident enough to have play sessions with his children. Just three months later at graduation, he asked when the next play session would be with his children, as he awaited his release date.
Another young man through the program learned to cope with the sound of his infants’ cries, which used to drive him from the room. Now, he knew what to do to help soothe his child and the crying didn’t bother him. The teen also shared that prior to being incarcerated, he had spent plenty of time with his young baby, but he wasn’t really engaging with him.
By getting on the floor with his son, playing and interacting with him during Just Beginning play sessions, he said, they had formed more of a bond than they had when he was at home. This young man’s release is just months away, and he will have more tools to connect with his child when he is.
First3Years is immensely proud of this first cohort of graduates. Most of all we are grateful to witness the most important outcomes—the strengthened bonds between the teen parents and their babies, and their increased confidence as the participants embrace their roles as fathers.
First3Years also wishes to thank our partners at the Dallas County Juvenile Services Board without whom this program would not have seen fruition; and Café Momentum who continues to be our partner from the inception of the program. Just Beginning is generously funded by Gaston Episcopal Hospital Foundation, The Dallas Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, and the M.R. and Evelyn Hudson Foundation.
To learn more about the Just Beginning program, visit https://first3yearstx.org/just-beginning